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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  November 8, 2011 12:30am-1:00am EST

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tavis: good evening from los angeles, i'm tavis smiley. first up tonight, a conversation about the growing influence of money in our political arena, he's out with a new book called "republic lost." and an interview with one of tv's all-time most memorable mothers. florence henderson joins us.
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lawrence lessing and florence henderson join us now. >> every community has a martin luther king jr. boulevard. it's not just a street or a boulevard, it's where wal-mart stands with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. we're proud to joinis tnav i promoting financial literacy and promote economic empowerment one conversation at a time. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: lawrence lessing is a director of education at
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harvard, his new text is called "republic lost: how money corrupts congress and a plan to stop it." thank you for being here, professor. >> great to be here. tavis: to say that congress is corrupted is one thing, but to suggest that the republic is lost, those are two different things. >> that's right. tavis: why suggest the republic is lost? >> we have to understand what they meant by a republic. when the framers give us our -- gave us our republic, they thought it was a representative democracy and defined that to be a democracy dependent upon the people alone. what we've allowed to happen is we've allowed congress to develop a different dependency. they spend 30% of their time raising money to get back in congress, they have a different dependency, on the funders. that conflicts with the dependency on the people alone. in this sense a republic responsive to the people has been deflected by the republic
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increasingly responsive to the funders. >> there are two issues that you focus in on, in no particular order, one is bad governance. tell me what you mean by that? >> governance distorted from what it would be doing if it were focusing on what the people who were elected wanted them to do, a key component i want to make here is this is a problem for both the right and the left. it distart -- distorts the government because they're paying attention to the shape shifting they have to engage in to convince the funders to fund them. the best example of this is wall street. it's one thing to say, wall street was able to buy deregulation up through 2008. but after 2008; after the worst crisis since the depression, after the king of deregulation, alan greenspan, said he has been, quote, mistaken, about what the banks would do when face wt the risks and opportunities they did, even then wall street was able to blackmail both republicans an democrats into imposing not any change on the fundamental structural program that gai us
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that collapse. that's the sense of distortion i think everybody on the right and left has to acknowledge. tavis: to your point if congress is corrupted that means both the left and right, as you suggested, have been constructed -- corrupted in the process. but how do we define what bad governance is? it's impossible to use that phrase without attaching that to politics on both the left and right. it's such a politically loaded phrase. >> it is. let's be clear what i mean by corruption, first. there's a corruption in the sense of rod blagojevich or randy cunningham, people taking money and bribery. i don't think our congress is corrupt in that sense. in that sense, our congress is the cleanest congress in the history of congress. the corruption here is the addict thinking about the bottle rather than his or her jobful they're constantly focused on what this other stuff would be. in that focus it's impossible not to see that what they do, what they argue about on the
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floor of the house, is focused on the things that are driving fundraising as opposed to the things driving the concerns of the american people. the best example rerently was, in the first four months of this year, we're in the middle of two wars, huge unemployment crisis, huge debt crisis, huge problems with health care plan, we don't even begin to address global warming, what's the number one issue congress is focused on? the bank swipe fee crisis. whether banks get to charge more for swiping your debit cards or whether retail companies have to pay less. why is this the number one issue the congress is focused on? because as a congressman if you pretend you're not sure which side you're coming down on this issue, tons of campaign cash comes flowing down on top of your campaign. so why don't we pay attention to unemployment in america? unemployment doesn't raise a lot of campaign funds for the congressman who might be addressing it. tavis: you've not said much that
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i disagree with but i'm curious to ask you what role the supreme court has played in further crutchting congress because that citizens united case, as far as i'm concerned, i'm curious to hear your take on this, but that citizens yeened case is going to make this problem even worse because now money flows in unlimited, from across the country. corporations are treated as people. what do you make of how that decision, and you clerked for antonin scalia and he's on the wrong side, as far as i'm concerned, of that vote, but how do you think they affect it? >> i think that -- no doubt it makes it worse. i think the particulars, whether citizens united should have been aloud to spend its money, this particulars were fine. of course they should have. but the decision makes it sound like congress has no power to address the kind of corruption i'm talking about. you're right. what it means is an explosion in independent expenditures. the supreme court thought that those would be disclosed. it took a commeed can, colbert,
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to demonstrate on his show about how there's a huge fwp in regulations allowing most of it to be anonymous. it makes it much, much worse. i think it's a mistake to think that if we could just reverse citizens united, we would solve the problem. on january 20, 20 10, the day for citizens united was decided, this democracy was already broken. we've got to have a reform project, which is about much more than correcting the mistakes of the supreme court. instead it's about making it so this congress can oy ford the -- has the infence to pay attention to what the people want rather than just what the fundraisers. tavis: i want to make sure we agree it's both-and, not either-or. >> absolutely. tavis: the other issue you raise in the book is the loss of trust a loss of trust by whom, and in whom? >> i think we have developed this cynical society where we're constantly looking for the ulterior mote i. and where there's a structure
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which screams the -- which screens the ulterior motive we can't help but think it's the ulterior mote i driving it. 70% of americans believe money buys results in congress. a little more democrats than republicans but when the democrats controlled congress, it was more democrats than republicans. there's a structure. they see congress constantly spending their time raising money and they believe congress is therefore bought. now, that is croce i, right. 11 -- 11% last year of american people had confidence in congress. it's gotten better now 12% have confidence in congress. put that in context. 12%. there were more people who believed in the british crown at the time of the revolution than who believe in this congress today. you have to ask, at what point does an institution have to declare bankruptcy, political bankruptcy because we don't trust them to do their job?
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this is, i think, because we see money driving results, we therefore have no confidence that they're going to be listening to us as opposed to the money people, the people on occupy wall street have their sign, we're the 99%. the only people the politicians listen to are the people who max out the contributions. that's .05%. their signs ought to say we're the 99.95% who don't get a voice, don't get access to the political process because we're not the funders of these campaigns. tavis: to your point now, i wonder whether or not you think the occupy wall street protests which continue to owe, might have an impact on the corruption? >> i think if they can frame the issue properly, this could be the trigger that makes possible this change. you know, i'm a liberal and i'm happy -- i've been out to these protests in washington and in new york and seattle just over the week. i'm happy to see people rallying around liberal causes. of course, i think we've compromised way too much in the past 30 years in our beliefs. but there's one thing to say,
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here's what i believe in as a liberal. it's another thing to say, what do we believe in as americans that might actually give us a path toward reforming the corrupt system we've got right now? and i think, whether or not you believe in capitalism, i do, but whether or not you believe in capitalism, nobody believes in crony capitalism and crony capitalism is the kind of capitalism we've got now. tavis: but herein lies the problem, to your point, whether one agrees or disagrees with the liberal or left views as some might call them of these protesters, when they step up to raise their voice, when they step up to say something about this corruption, they get called anti-capitalist. they get called mobs. they get demonized. everybody, not everybody but a lot of people casting aspersions on them. i'm raising that, not to defend this them per se but to ask if people taking to the streets to raise their voices about the issues gets them demonized in the process, how do the citizens
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united ever push back on this? >> it's a real problem. because we have business model in media, not every show, but a business model in media that's driven toward polar sargse. it pays. tavis: absolutely. >> to identify and the monoize the other side. and even the participants want to demonize the other side. the tea party wants to demonize the occupy movement as a bunch of, quote, an -- anarchists, according to one email. and when the tea party took off, the left wan t.d. demonize them. we have to find a way, there's no good evidence we can, but we have to find a way to step outside the framing of business models that want to too much us to hate each other and get us back to talking as citizens about what we need to change. tavis: in 45 seconds, what's the point of the book and where does your hope lie if there's no evidence to suggest we can push back on this? >> there is a way to fund elections that makes it so
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congress is not dependent upon funders who are not the people. but we've got to recognize congress isn't going to give us that. we've go to build an outside the beltway movement, cross-partisan, don't compromise our substantive value bus cross-partisan to push for that kind of fundamental change in this corruption. i think we can do it, not a lot of evidence yet, but i think what we're seeing happening, breaking out across the country right now, is the beginning of that. tavis: the topic of this text could not be more propitious. it's called "republic lost: how money corrupts congress and a plan to stop it." i suspect some of the occupy wall street protesters may be reading this right about now. lawrence lessing from harvard university, good to have you. >> great to be here. tavis: up next, actress forns henderson. stay with us. please welcome florence henderson to this program. she's one of tv's all-time iconic moms.
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thanks to her role on the "brady bunch." she's out now with a new memoir from a poor childhood in indiana to stardom. it's called "life is not a stage" pr broadway by by to lovely lady and beyond. good to have you. >> i'm excited to be here. tavis: we were just talking before you came on camera about your life and my life. i grew up in indiana, like you. >> what town? tavis: kokomo. >> that was a big city. tavis: for you it was. kokomo, big city. they laugh at me right now, my mom is watching and laughing right now, in kokomo. grew up in indiana, one of 10 kids. i was just so -- i grew up watching you on "the brady bunch" and thinking that house, is nothing like my house. >> it wasn't anything like mine, either. tavis: i was so tickled when i got into the book, just about the interesting part of your life growing up in indiana, but the thing that got me more than
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anything else is that childhood in indiana, where your family is concerned, is so far removed from this wholesome, loving, blended family that we came to know you through, "the brady bunch." tell me about your childhood in indiana. >> well, as you said, i'm the youngest of 10 children. my father didn't marry until he was almost 50, then he had 10 children. i was his 10th. i was born when he was close to 70. and you know, depression, i was born in 1934, don't tell anybody. yeah. and you know, growing up so poor, my dad was a sharecropper, dirt farmer, and struggled so hard to make a h.i.v. living, never really did. he also had a drinking problem, and my mother was 25 years younger than my father so it was -- it was daunting, in childhood
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to say the least. tavis: at one point, your mother left? >> yes. when i was about 12 or 13, my mother left. they said she was going to cleveland to work. and she was gone through all of my high school years and i saw her when i got the lead in the last national company of we played cleveland and that's where she was working. and there she was. but i always wrote to her, you know. i always hoped that i would have this loving mother and one that was filled with affection and that just wasn't my mother. tavis: what was that reunion like, in cleveland? >> she was still forceful and strong and you know, it was good to see her and she came back to the hotel. i, you know, i got her a room and she decided she would show us how to jump rope.
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my roommate and me. this is after the show, about 1:00 in the morning. the hotel wasn't too thrilled about that, but that was my mother. tell them to think nothing of it. that was her mantra. it'll never be noticed on the galloping horse. don't worry about it. tavis: your father, since you mentioned traveling in oklahoma, powerful story in the book about a choice you had to make when your father died. >> yes. tavis: you tell the story, but since we're talking about your mother and you mentioned oklahoma, the connection to your father, when he passes, is -- >> my dad had a trying problem. the last time i saw him, when i had gone home, i helped get him off, you know, a bing, and i shaved him and i shook my finger at him and said, you know, you can't do this anymore because i'm not here, you know, my sister is not here all the time to take care of you and so i said, you know, daddy, sometimes
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i'd rather see you dead than like this. and he -- oh, he was so upset that i said that. but you know, this was years of dealing with this. so we're getting ready to open in oklahoma and i get a call that daddy had died and so i go to richard rogers and os tar hammerstein, the director -- and oscar hammerstein, and the director and said, i have to go home. they said, you can't. we open tomorrow night in new haven, connecticut, you don't have an understudy that's ready to go on. so naturally i did not get to go home but deep down, i was relieved. i thought, i don't have to deal with one more issue. but i suffered a lot of guilt for many years over that. tavis: that gives whole new meaning to the show must go on. you decide, make a choice to stay there, versus going to bury your father. how did you navigate past that,
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through that, in the ensuing years? >> well, i remember, you know, at that time, i was a strict catholic, i remember going to confession and you know, telling the priest how badly i felt and i almost felt like it was a sin, but there was really, i had no choice. but i was glad that i didn't have the choice, that the decision was made for me. you know, i developed insomnia because of that, a lot of problems. but the priest said, you know, these things happen. if we get older, we come to realize, you know, how smart our parents really were, you know, gave me that kind of speech. but that didn't really help. you just learn to deal with it. you accept it. you go on. and try to understand. i've always done that. i loved my parents very, very much. my brothers and sisters.
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i hope the book is about that, about forgiveness. and understanding. and laughter. you know. you've got to laugh at these things. tavis: you said you had no choice. i know what you meant by that, and of course in life, we always have choices. you could have chosen if you wanned to, to say, i'm going to bury my father, do what you have to do, i don't want it this way, i didn't plan this, but i must go attend to my father's business, if i can use that phrase. i really wanted to ask, how would you write that choice that you had to make amongst other choices you had to make in this business. it came earlier in your career, was that the toughest choice? did you have choices that were tougher? >> you know what, this business is always about tough choices. i have four children. there were always choices, do i take this job? do i leave my children at this
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time? it's always a tough choice. i learned at that time responsibility. you know. your personal sorrow and struggles can't always define you and what you do. and i learned a great deal about responsibility. and i grew up being responsible for a lot of things and so it was just another lesson for me. and there's no way that i could have, you know, deserted everybody and caused everybody to lose money and be out of work and i probably would have been sued, i don't know what would have happened. there was just no choice. tavis: how did your growing up in indiana without your mother and the story now of your father's passing, not being able to bury him, how did all of this, if it did, influence the way you played or portrayed the character as the mom on "the
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brady bunch"? >> i think i portrayed carol brady as the mother that i always wished i had. i think it affected me greatly and you know, that story, you know, all those stories of "the brady bunch," they're sweet, they're gentle. i think they're seen through the eyes of a child. i think that's why it's lasted so long. you know. it's never been off the air. it's just amaze -- it just amazes me. i think to be able to bring that to people, i know so many young people come up to me today and said, i grew up with you, i was a latch key kid, i didn't have a father, my father deserted us, you know, i didn't have a mother, all of these things and it crosses all ethnic groups, it's absolutely amazing to me. and also, we took it very seriously, doing that show.
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that's why it's so easy to parody, because we believed every word of it. tavis: i'm glad you said that. the thing i mentioned earlier, i grew up as a kid, in a big family in indiana, watching "the brady bunch" and loving "the brady bunch" every day. i'm thinking to myself, i'm also -- i grew up in a blended family, there are six kids in my family, my mother had -- i had an aunt that was murdered, and my mother and father took in our cousins. i'm watching this every day and i'm thinking to myself, whether or not you ever felt like the show was being preachy or proselytizing, i raise that only because there were so many lessons as a child i remember learning from watching "the brady bunch" and now you try to teach those lessons and you get told you're being preachy but you pulled this off without
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being preachy. >> when the show first came out, we were not critically well received. sherwood schwartz who created it showing me a review of one critic. i guess he was a husband and father and he said, i know, you know, people have been really hard on this show. he said, but what's wrong with teaching a child to tell the truth? to honor their parents? if they fight with their siblings, make up, respect your teachers. all of those things. and you know, i think that it's been a very valuable teaching tool and now young parents tell me that they have the d.v.d.'s and they watch it together sometimes on friday nights, like they did when they were kids. if you tissue do you have young children? tavis: i do not. >> if i had young children today, i'd be concerned about television. tavis: as you should be.
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of course it's great on pbs. >> whole other ballgame. tavis: let me ask this, my time is running out, you are so well known for playing carol brady, yet you've done so many other things in your career. how ok are you with forever being known, more than anything else you've ever known, as -- done as carol brady? >> i'm ok with that. i think you have to cherish your past. because if you don't cher herb your past, and love this moment, you have no future. and i know a lot of actors hate that, when they're identified with a role. i know what i've done in my career. a will the of people know my broadway career and other things, but i accept that. i received tremendous affection from people all over the world, i get mail from all over the world, and you know, i think that's part of life.
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acceptance. learning to accept things you can cannot change. i'll never be able to change that. why waste energy on trying. tavis: i think it's pretty cool, actually. if you're going to be known for a character, why not carol? >> i could be known for the [beep], whatever. tavis: well, anyway. >> sorry, on that note. tavis: no. her name, of course is florence henderson. the new book is called "life is not a stage: from broadway baby to a lovely lady and beyond." honored to have you on the program. thank you for your time. >> thank you. i love fellow hoosiers. tavis: i love you back. that's our show for tonight. thanks for tuning in. until next time, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org.
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tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with five-time elmy winner john lithgow on his critically acclaimed new memoir. that's next time, see you then. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard but a place where wal-mart stands together with your community. to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to joan tavis in working to improve litery and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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